Diop a target for Arteta as he looks to bolster Arsenal defence

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Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta is keeping tabs on West Ham United central defender Issa Diop with a view to recruiting the powerful player to bolster his defence.

Tabloids reports suggest the Gunners boss, who has steadied the ship at the Emirates Stadium since he arrived to replace axed Unai Emery in December, is set to make a swoop for the former Toulouse ace.

The stories circulating around various media outlets say Arteta intends to snap up the defender despite the Hammers turning down Manchester United’s attempt to lure France star Diop last term.

The Gunners have another French defender coming in to the Emirates Stadium in the summer in the shape of William Saliba. The 18-year-old prospect penned a deal at the north London giants last summer but has been on loan at Saint-Etienne since then.

Diop’s arrival would mean that both Shkodran Mustafi and Papa Sokratis would be shown the door at Arsenal — but they are not alone and many pundits expect a big clear out of dead wood come the conclusion of his campaign.

Previously, Arteta has spoken at length about the need to enjoy defending with a view to retaining possession as soon as possible after losing it. He said:

“I’ve told the players they need to enjoy defending as much as they enjoy attacking because it’s a very big part of the game. And so, if you give simple balls away you need to run back and recover that ball as quickly as possible.”

He made mention of the new determination he has placed within the ranks of his players to show grit and determination and added:

“This team plays with a big heart and I see a lot of effort from these players. Rather than splitting they have joined together very quickly. The wide players are now behaving in a different way. They are tracking back and we are doing a lot more work to stay compact when we don’t have the ball. I’m really pleased with that. There are a few lessons within that game for us, and some great things for our development as well as a team.”

Meanwhile, the club remains in a virtual state of lockdown after Arteta confirmed he had contracted coronavirus. The Premier League — and other divisions — will stay suspended until a decision is made on the future of the remainder of the season. It will be a logistical nightmare for the season to be started once more if the lockdown continues for any more than a month. Some fans are suggesting the season should be scrapped and restarted all over in August; others think Liverpool should be handed the title. There are also promotion and relegation issues to consider as well as qualification for European football.